Tag Archive for user errors

Design Solution to Real World Problem — Speeding!

Canada Road Slowdown Project

Knowing something about behavior, visual processing, and human nature, designers can nudge users into doing the right (or in this case, lawful) action. Speeding is a problem all over the world. People are notorious for underestimating the real amount of time it takes to get places they need to be. Traffic congestion, car problems, detours, and other (un)foreseen events can make a huge difference in time variability of getting from one place to another. The problem, though, is that we can’t really force people to leave on time or drive the speed limit when the drivers think that no one is looking. So with the law on our side, we can create other ways of forcing people to behave lawfully by changing environmental conditions and relying on human nature not to do what’s right, but to do what they think they have to based on circumstance. Here are a few creative ways of solving the speeding problem on our streets. Using Visual Processing Errors to Slow Traffic Canadian drives misdiagnose the problem and try to drive straddling the “hole” in the road. Everyone is successfully slowed down. The Fake Traffic Cop Threat as a Speeding Deterrent In general, people tend…

Special Preview: Wearable Computing (Steve Mann)

The next chapter in the Interaction-Design.org tome on human-computer interaction design is now up for an early review to my readers. This chapter takes on Wearable Computing and is written by Steve Mann. Mostly, this is a historical review of Prof. Mann’s experimentations with wearable computing devices, and for those unfamiliar with this subject area, this is an interesting introduction. On the left, you can see an early version of wearable computing: Steve Mann’s backpack based system from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. But as always, I have a slightly different take on this topic… The Little Mac That Saved My Son’s Life Almost 18 years ago, I went into a preterm labor. At 24 and a half weeks into gestation, this was very scary. At the time, San Francisco Children’s Hospital was pioneering a program for high risk pregnancies (which mine just turned out to be). Two doctors, Dr. Kuts and Dr. Maine, figured out how to use an old Mac SE, a modem, a telephone, a subcutaneous pump, and a belt which measures contractions to allow women like me to stay at home as much as we could (as opposed to spending months in the hospital). Here’s…

Emotional Scaffolding

Processing emotions takes time and energy. Part of the working memory is taken up by analyzing the emotional state of others, environmental stresses, personal feelings, and anxiety. Since working memory is an extremely limited resource, anything that takes up space there without our bidding (against our will) takes away from our ability to think through situations, to problem solve, and to make well-reasoned decisions. Instead of thinking, we are using up the working memory for processing emotions. Sometimes, emotions are just the right thing to focus on — to pay attention to. How does this painting makes me feel? Do I like this person? This music feels good… But if you are taking a math test, focusing on how much you really hate test-taking takes away from your ability to take the test. It is very common for individuals to “get” the subject matter, but fail the test. Some people are good at dealing with anxieties and some have trouble controlling their attention controls away from fretting. That’s one of the reason some educators are talking about doing away with summative assessments (final exams) in favor of continuous assessment (assessment as part of learning) — the on-going observation of students’…

Thinking about the Science of Communication and Interaction

Alien Senses

In the Galaxy Far Far Away… What if sentient being evolved on a planet with permanent cloud cover? What if these being never saw stars? Would they still be able to discover the laws of nature? These kinds of hypothetical thinking questions — the Gedankan Experiments, as Einstein put it — are very useful in science. I’ll try to use them here for analyzing product design and communication. So what senses do we need to communicate? And what body appendages are necessary to produce this communication? Note that it helps keep track of these separately. Aroma-bet When I was little, I “designed” a language based on smell: each smell was assigned a character in an alphabet and, strung together in sequence, my smelly letters transcribed into words — the Aroma-bet. There were several problems with this: It was difficult to get an alphabet-worth of distinct odors; Arranged next to each other, the odors started to blend into each other, making “reading” difficult; I got a very bad headache; My mom didn’t like her expensive perfumes used in such a creative way… And I couldn’t remember what letter each smell stood for, requiring the creation of a smell-o-dictionary, which in turn…

Socially Constructed Beliefs

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with a strong recommendation against the use of bumpers in cribs. The September 2007 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics examined deaths and injuries attributed to infant crib bumper pads: “Twenty-seven accidental deaths reported by medical examiners or coroners were attributed to bumper pads. The mechanism of death included suffocation and strangulation by bumper ties. Twenty-five nonfatal injuries were identified, and most consisted of minor contusions. All retail bumpers had hazardous properties.” AAP has finally announced that it is formally against bumpers. That certainly took a while. And, amazingly, the bumper pads are still for sale by all major baby room outfitters, and parents are still buying them and using them with their beloved offspring. Why? Why would parents knowingly endanger their children? This is an interesting case of Mental Model Traps, Mirroring Errors, and Cognitive Blindness. Mental Model Traps Let’s start by Mental Model Traps that parents fall into in this particular case. To do this, we need to back up in time a bit. The design of children’s beds had undergone considerable evolution over the last few centuries. Cribs used to be just large baskets with tightly woven sides. The weave…

Community of Practice and Knowledge Propagation Circle

This summer my family and I travelled to Rome. While the temperatures didn’t reach the usual astronomic heights, it was rather warm. But we, and other visitors, didn’t have to worry about thirst. Rome has the best network of public drinking fountains that I have ever seen. Every few blocks, there’s a beautifully-designed basin with a spigot of continuously running water (I know, being from California, the never-ending stream made us very uncomfortable, too). There are two bits of information that have to be passed on to the first-time visitors of Rome: the water is potable—safe to drink, and how to use the fountain—there’s a bit of a trick to them. Above is my son demonstrating a little secret interaction. There’s a small hole on the top of the pipe that can serve as drinking fountain if the main hole at the end is plugged up (with a finger). While we learned about the great drinking water in Rome from many traveling guides (books, online sites, etc.), we obviously didn’t know about the trick until we watched a pro do it. Knowledge Propagation Circle Information propagates through communities. When we first encounter a novel bit of data, it tends to…